Monday, 30 March 2009

Allotmenticity - 30-03-09 Aston FM Sod It Grow Your Own

Well what a fabulous day yesterday! The sunshine beaming down you'd think we were safe to get sowing outside. But NO. Along comes another cold night. I'm being cautious and cloching the row where I'm sowing my early Arran Pilots. I've used all my large glass panes in an attempt to give them a flying start. Opinion from my neighbours is give it at least another week before getting them in.
My mini propogators from Choff have really worked. I've already potted on some Cauliflower plants, and the Carrots and Leeks are coming on really strong. I've just sown some Brussels Sprouts and Cabbage
ready for the Brassica cage.

Does anyone know where to get French Tarragon? The Russian variety that is widely available is nothing like the French, but I haven't found anywhere I can get the seeds.

The recipe this week is part of the GI diet, really tasty and with Lamb in the shops very current.
If anyone has any good recipes let me know. I'm always on the look-out for new ones.

Was in Minehead with The Legend last night and had the pleasure of meeting up with The Real Thing. I last worked with the guys 30years ago in my youth, so it was a surprise reunion.

And finally here's a test for the eagle-eyed ones among us. Can you identify the pink object in the photo. The answer will be revealed next week.
Until then,
The Captain


This is good served with vegetables such as cabbage, carrots or broccoli.

Serves 2

335g extra-lean rack of lamb
1 clove garlic, finely sliced
1 sprig rosemary
1½ tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 shallots, finely sliced
410g can cannellini beans, drained
200ml good chicken stock
200g washed baby-leaf spinach

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Carefully cut away any fat and sinew from the lamb with a small sharp knife. Stab the lamb 5 or 6 times and insert a slice of garlic and a few rosemary leaves into each incision. You should have garlic clove left over. Put the lamb in a small nonstick roasting tray. Rub with tbsp olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the lamb in the oven. Roast for 20 minutes for medium-rare, 25 minutes for medium or 30 minutes for well done. Once cooked, leave to rest for 5 minutes in a warm place.

Meanwhile, heat a saucepan over a low heat, then add 1 tbsp olive oil. Once hot, add the sliced shallots and remaining garlic, then gently fry for 10 minutes or until soft and golden. Rinse the cannellini beans and add to the shallots. Pour in the stock and, once bubbling, simmer for 15 minutes or until the stock has reduced. Season to taste.

In a separate pan, wilt the spinach. Slice the lamb and serve with the beans and spinach.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Allotmenticity - 23-03-09 Aston FM Sod It Grow Your Own

Here's my latest piece of fun on Aston FM with Gary James. I was told about the Dorset Chilli by my great friend Horatio Kenyon whilst in Bournemouth last week. I've managed to source some seeds and may well give them a try. And also thanks to Spud for the onion sets, I'll put them in next week.
We've reverted back to our usual weather for the time being so I'm going to hold off sowing any spuds until the beginning of April.
I've inherited some large panes of double glazing, so I think I'll cloche up some ground ready. Just to give them a flying start.
I've noticed my carrots and leeks coming through in their mini propogators. They'll need thinning soon, but as they're in containers I might avoid the dreaded root flies.
I'm juggling time between trips away and the various jobs I need doing down on No87 so weather permitting I can get some more work done on the brassica cage and the corporate area soon.
Until then, here's the recipe I mentioned.

The Captain.

Chilli Con Carne with Chocolate


2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
½ kg lean minced beef
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 large red chilli, halved, deseeded and chopped
1 tsp hot chilli powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
300ml beef stock
1 tin chopped tomatoes
10g dark chocolate, broken
freshly ground black pepper
1 tin red kidney beans, drained and rinsed


Fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil until soft, then add minced beef and brown.

Drain off any excess fat from meat and add tomato puree chilli, chilli powder coriander, cinnamon and cumin and cook for a further 1 minute and then add the tin of tomatoes, the tin of kidney beans and the beef stock and bring to the boil.

Reduce the heat to a smiling simmer, add the chocolate and cover.

Cook for 1 hour.

Season to taste and serve with plain boiled rice and tortilla chips and a spoon of creme fraiche on top of each bowl.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Allotmenticity - 16-03-09 Aston FM Sod It Grow Your Own

Well the final section of "Casa Tongo" is now complete. With a massive amount of help (and a cheek) from "Her Cissyness" we finally got it finished. It's amazing how hot it can get with those huge windows. I think I grew 2" on Sunday just sowing some seeds! As you can see I've cut through the back panel to gain access to the flight deck!
At the same time, I dug out a bed just in front of the end which was where the old "Compost Corner" used to be. This is now going to be an Asparagus bed. Something I've always wanted to try. Many years ago I made an attempt, but the soil was too clay heavy. This time it's got the remains of years of compost and I'll add a mix of new and some multi-purpose to give it a good start. The only drag is waiting 2 years before reaping the rewards!
I ordered my crowns from Suttons. I went into B&Q last week and they were selling Horseradish, Ginger, Asparagus & Jerusalem Artichokes. Great until you chech the state of the packages. All the Asparagus had dry roots and spindly pale green shoots. The ginger was soft and every pack the compost was dry as dust, mainly because they're onsale in the main building which is warm. I think B&Q should review their plant selling methods. Also I noticed a small box of Garden Lime for £3.00. I just bought a sack of the same stuff from a builders merchants for £6.00. I'm determined to fight the club root this year, so plenty will go into each planting hole and then fresh compost.
It's great to have some nice weather as all your neighbours get out and you can get to know them all. We seem to be filling all the vacant plots at last, which is great news. There's nothing worse than an overgrown plot full of weeds.
I hope you enjoy the jokes from my Irish friends. The recipe is fabulous and well worth a try. Make sure you cook the beef until it melts in the mouth.
I'm off down to Bournemouth this week to play a concert at the BIC called Dorset Rocks. Thousands of really talented kids. Should be fun.
(Don't think I'll mention The Reds though!)

Happy St Patrick's Day!

The Captain.

Liam & Fanny O'Boyle's Corned Beef & Cabbage.


  • 2 large onions, quartered
  • 6 carrots, chopped into large chunks
  • 3 pounds beef brisket or Silverside
  • 1/2 cup malt vinegar
  • 1 glass Irish stout beer
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon dill seed
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Large head of cabbage, rinsed and quartered
  • 1 pound small red potatoes, scrubbed
  • Colmans English mustard.


You'll need a large heavy-duty pot for this recipe.
Place the beef in the stockpot. Add the half of the chopped onions and carrots, malt vinegar, stout, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, black peppercorns, dill seeds, whole allspice and bay leaves. Add enough water to cover the corned beef, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer about 2-3 hours until meat is fork-tender.

Add the remaining onions and carrots and the red potatoes to the cooked corned beef, with the cabbage on top. Cover and return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes, until potatoes and cabbage are fork-tender.

To serve, cut the corned beef against the grain into slices and accompany with the cooked vegetables.

And of course a large dollop of Colmans English Mustard.

Makes 4 hearty servings.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Allotmenticity - 09-03-09 Aston FM Sod It Grow Your Own

I've been making the most of the good weather, before the cold and wet arrive again, by getting the base of my new potting shed down.
I've sown some small round carrots in one of the big plastic mini propagators and also some leeks in another one. I'm using them as portable seed beds and hopefully they'll work. Watch this space!
My seed potatoes are chitting nicely but the way the weather is, I don't think I'll be planting them for a good few weeks yet.

Try this recipe, the Cardamoms give it a really interesting flavour. (Don't tell Jamie Oliver though, he'll nick the idea!!!)


1 red onion, halved and finely sliced

Tablespoon of olive oil

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 chorizo sausage, cut into thick coins

6 Cardamom seeds (Cracked)

1 can chickpeas drained and rinsed

1 tin chopped tomatoes

a glass of red wine

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

salt, pepper to taste

Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil over a very low heat for about 15 minutes, until soft and golden. Add the chorizo and a pinch of smoked paprika, and saute a further couple of minutes. Add the chickpeas,cardamom seeds, tomatoes and wine, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring once or twice. Taste for seasoning, and add salt, pepper, as necessary.

Serve in bowls with crusty bread.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Allotmenticity - 02-03-09 Aston FM Sod It Grow Your Own

Well the weather continues to throw us curve balls! Just when we think it's over, winter has another say and we get more frost.
I've managed to get a couple of days in over the weekend, though mainly sorting out the plot. I've acquired a potting shed which I'm going to attach to the end of the shed. Trouble is I've had to re-site compost corner. Not a bad move though, as I've now made it a double bin in the process.
My Isle of Wight garlic is looking great, as are the Japanese onions, and I picked 2 heads of Purple Sprouting Brocolli for my dinner. Fantastic!
I've sown some cauliflower seeds in one of Choff's propagators and they're all coming through.
I'm going to try some of the small globe carrots in one, which should cancel the threat of carrot fly.
I've just read a blog re club root, and one of the tips is to use "Slaked" Lime instead of Garden Lime. As I've just run out I might give it a go. I've already applied one dressing to the brassica patch, but maybe another one of Slaked, nearer planting time will help.

Great quote from an article about allotments in The Times.

"When the going gets tough, the Brits get hoeing"

Was down in Bognor on Friday with "The Legend" Great night and the weekend rounded off nicely by Man Utd !

The Captain.

The Ratatouille recipe mentioned is one I've been making for a few years and is great hot or cold.
(If you've got a local Lidl or Aldi everything is available there and is really cheap!)

1 Aubergine - halved and sliced
2 Courgettes - sliced into rounds
1 Green Pepper - cut into chunks
1 Red Pepper - cut into chunks
1 Large Onion - roughly chopped into chunks
1 Large Clove of Garlic - chopped
Small tin of whole Button Mushrooms.
Tin of Chopped Tomatoes
Carton of Passata (sieved tomatoes)
Teaspoon of mixed dried Mediterranean Herbs - Oregano, Thyme, Basil.
Bay Leaf.
Salt & Pepper to taste.
Olive Oil
Glass of Red Wine (optional)

Fry the Onions and Garlic in Olive Oil until soft but not brown.
Add Aubergine , Courgettes and Peppers and continue to cook for further 5 minutes.
Add Mushrooms including liquid, Passata, Chopped Tomatoes and the glass of Red Wine and increase heat so the liquid comes to boil. Boil for 5 minutes then reduce heat to a gentle simmer.
Add the dried herbs and Bay Leaf, season to taste with salt and pepper and cover.
Leave to cook for 1 hour until all the flavours have mixed together and vegetables are soft.
You can serve this as an accompaniment to grilled chicken or pork, or allow to cool and eat with cold cuts or on it's own with crusty bread.